Stu Pollard's second feature, after the lighthearted Nice Guys Sleep Alone, is a much darker film, but while the story initially sounds like a straightforward erotic-thriller, Pollard's script, as he explains in the DVD's commentary track, deals with multiple characters trapped in unfulfilling relationships, and their efforts to 'figure out what matters.'
Benefiting from a stellar cast, Keep Your Distance [KYD] manages to deliver a balance of drama and intrigue, and while the stalker subplot propels the story, the real interest for viewers lies in the developing friendship/romance between Gil Bellows (playing amiable radio host David Dailey), and Jennifer Westfeldt (playing a traveling saleswoman, whose own strained relationship with Christian Kane is veering into potentially dangerous terrain).
Like Nice Guys, KYD is an independently produced and distributed film, and writer/director Pollard uses the commentary track for an overview on the nuts and bolts of making an indie flick - which, in Pollard's case, is a polished 35mm movie made for about $2 million. The director makes a point in stressing how it's more than possible to be an independent filmmaker and shoot on film - you just need to be extraordinarily organized, with a firm business plan.
Most of the commentary track - informative, but in places edited a bit too tight to fit the length of related scenes - covers the nuts and bolts of the film's pre-, production, and post-production stages (with a special slant to the subtle, vital usage of modern CGI effects), and it's clear Pollard enjoys the challenges and relationships that come with the film's lifespan - about five years, from writing the script, to DVD release. That's an extraordinary time-span for a single individual to stick with his movie, so it's no surprise Pollard's comments are less canted towards light and airy production anecdotes. (There's mere mentions of a few humorous moments, but Pollard urges listeners to send an email to find out more.)
A few recollections do setup some material in the DVD's often profane Outtakes gallery, including less refined examples of the Pana-Matt, Stacy Keach's professionalism when bad voltage reigns, and lousy hotel service.
The behind-the-scenes featurette offers a mix of light on-set moments, and familiar interviews with the cast. Sub-sections also address the film's tightly edited car chase sequence, a dream sequence with twenty Mercedes, and ace cinematographer Matthew Irving, who treats the film's locale of Louisville, Kentucky as another gorgeous co-star.
Additional extras include deleted scenes and the film's alternate endings. The latter has extensions with Elizabeth Pena's character (more or less stating what's clearly inferred through the sequence's subtext), and a "One Year Later" montage that unnecessarily shows each character in their respective states of comfort, bliss, and purgatory.
A Deleted Scenes gallery also gathers redundant material in a lengthy suite, plus some extensions that were clearly extra insurance for the director, in case certain characters or relationships needed special emphasis during the editing phase. More interesting is an argument scene, effectively condensed in the final film, between Gil Bellows and Kim Raver (as the wayward Mrs. Dailey), with extraneous material, including verbal outbursts that were a bit too high-pitched, and dramatically overwrought.
Monarch's DVD offers a first-rate film transfer, and the DVD's 5.1 mix offers an excellent balance of rich sound effects, a punchy mix of Chris Anderson's underscore, and some source music - particularly Christian Kane's potent rendition of "Right in Front of You," a song written by Pollard and Doug Derryberry.
Note: to read an interview with writer/director/co-producer Stu Pollard, click HERE.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan